3D Printed Miniatures: A Glimpse of the Future

I hope it’s become apparent by now through this project that the way we can think about tabletop wargaming is changing. We are at a strange nexus-point where factors such as 3D printing, Patreon and Instagram are allowing aspects of the hobby to grow and develop more organically than ever before. We can see this in the rise of publications like 28Mag, a digital magazine focused on a particular visual style rather than a game or setting, or Turnip28, Hieronymus Max’s vegetable (you heard me) based Napoleonic grimdark game setting, which has grown out from posts on a Facebook group into a community on Instagram, with a Patreon that sees members contributing to founding aspects of the story in a way that a business would never allow. Game rulesets, such as BrutalQuest and Planet28 by Nic_The_Evans are incredibly cheap, crowdsourced projects, with content contributions from disparate creators all over social media, and aspects of the ruleset voted on through Instagram story. I was able to take advantage of this when I used connections made over social media illustrate for a wargaming rulebook last summer. It is now easier than ever to spark a setting with a player base that can evolve exponentially.

So, where do miniatures come into this? Rules, art, and ideas are intangible, they can be shared digitally. Miniatures are the same to a degree, if one has the skill to model or sculpt in programs such as Zbrush or Mudbox then they can share their STL.s with others able to 3D print. This still poses the limitations of a creator on the audience however, and it’s important to note that settings like Turnip28 weren’t born with brand new miniatures, they evolved into those, they were born from kitbashing other manufacturer’s miniatures.

The first Turnip28 related content on ieronymus_max’s Instagram.

The first Turnip28 miniatures were made from Perry Miniatures Napoleonics and Medieval figures mixed with grass tufts and greenstuff. We’ve come all the way from there to creators such as SaintDecent creating entirely free STL. collections of Turnip28 parts, based on the art, based on the kitbashes. Other artists and companies have done the same, with collections of parts for adaptations of existing models or kits of entirely new ones being kickstarted or given away for free. Scoundrels of the Damned Ruins comes to mind, (allegedly) a reimagining of characters from a discontinued Games Workshop game, Mordheim.

SaintDecent’s Turnip28 conversion kit.

*Adam Curtis voice* And then something strange happened.

bladesandblasterminis’ digital kitbash.

I came across a seemingly normal post by bladesandblastersminis, who’d used Chitubox Slicing Software to combine 3D printable parts from two creators within the slicing software, bonding them before printing. This seems relatively banal, but it represents a few interesting ideas.

As open-source miniature parts become more readily available in a digital space, there is a greater combination of characters, styles, and settings to work from.

Digital means scalable and infinitely replicable, creators are not limited by scarcity of parts or the price of a specific kit.

The ability to arrange and assemble parts in slicing software massively lowers the time investment of learning digital modelling and sculpture in order to produce customised miniatures.

The digital kitbasher is still dependant on the production of parts by a separate creator, but they are much less limited by their physical materials (besides the need of a 3D printer). In a world that breeds such settings and stories from kitbash culture is it in the interest of the digital designer to attempt to modularise their products? I think it’s hard to tell as of yet, but it’s worth mentioning that I doubt Perry Miniatures has done badly from the explosion of interest in Turnip28.

3 thoughts on “3D Printed Miniatures: A Glimpse of the Future

    1. I’m really glad to hear that! On first seeing that sort of experimentation I was so surprised but really I suppose it’s one of logical next steps, something akin to an open source Heroforge. I’d love to give that a go if you’re interested one I complete my projects in three weeks or so. Are there any specifics you’re looking for?

      Liked by 1 person

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